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Welcoming Families and Inviting Family Engagement

January 6, 2022

In order to fully see and embrace every child, we must see and embrace every family.  Families are their children’s first teachers and the root of their sense of identity and belonging.  Families are cultural entities – filled with ways of being, ways of doing, and ways of communicating.  Our students bring all of these ways to school with them.  Thus, working in partnership with families provides children with essential connections and continuity, creating the strongest possible foundation in which to grow and learn.  

As early childhood educators, we are uniquely positioned to build strong relationships with families, as we tend to have frequent and regular contact with family/extended family members. Using both formal and informal opportunities to learn from and with families is a powerful way to get to know the children in your care.  

Historically, we sometimes have viewed family culture as solely reflected in holidays and ethnic celebrations. This can lead to “touristy”, and often inaccurate, curriculum that does not reflect the rich and complex humanity of our students and their families. Instead, it can  lead to teaching a “single story,” and may even perpetuate stereotypes, in accurate information, and mythology.

Instead, we want to move from a singular lens of identity (ethnicity – holidays & celebration) to a more intersectional perspective of children, families, and ourselves.  We best achieve this by inviting and engaging families and students in our work, through more authentic, meaningful, and genuine discussions and experiences together. 

For young children their cultural worlds are rooted in their daily concrete experiences – the way their family is together every day – their family’s “funds of knowledge.” This might look like:

  • Language – home languages – words family uses for mother, father, grandparent, etc.
  • Family Structure – household members, caregivers, people far away, etc.
  • Values and beliefs – life lessons and expectations taught at home
  • Culture – concrete and tangible ways-of-being in daily life – home routines (bedtime, mealtime routines), how babies and young children are held, carried or get around, how people greet and part from one another, etc. 
  • Traditions – special things families/communities do together with frequency – special weekend routines (shabbat), a special day of the year (first snow storm, earth day), visiting relatives, etc.
  • Daily developmental experiences – songs, finger plays, games that families do with their children

Our goal is to be open, learn, acknowledge, and make visible what children know, experience, and want to talk about. We want to include and teach the moments and stories that children bring with them to school.  In order to learn more about our students and their families, we might use a series of questions, over time, to guide and deepen our conversations with families, in order to inform curricular decisions, or to plan for and invite family participation in the classroom.  Some possible prompts can be found in the Student and Family Questionnaire.

Year-Long Trajectory

The Year-Long Trajectory is your scope and sequence for learning experiences across the year.

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